THE PROPERTY OF A LADY
Paul Edmond Flato (1900-1999) was a jewelry designer with a sharp eye for style, a sense of humor and a fascinating life story. Born in Shiner, Texas and raised in a family with deep roots in Southeastern Texas, Flato moved to New York City at the height of the Roaring Twenties. Within a few years, Flato had boutique stores in Los Angeles and New York and a clientele which included Katherine Hepburn and Greta Garbo and fashion icons such as Millicent Rogers and Elsa Schiaperelli.
The sign language clips (lot 27) or the "Deaf & Dumb Clips" are iconic Paul Flato jewels. His idea to "say it in gold" using sign language letters allowed the wearer to discretely wear their initials or in the case of Katherine Hepburn portraying Linda in "Holiday", her mother's maiden name. Flato had a large collection of antique hand sculptures and was drawn to hand imagery. Throughout the 1930's, Flato used these hands to display jewelry in the advertisements that appeared in Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. Marcela Howard, owner of the famous racehorse, Seabiscuit, gave Flato one of his most treasured hand sculptures. His interest in hands and specifically sign language may have been rooted in his own hearing loss. Flato wore hearing aids and must have been fascinated with the idea of communicating exclusively with your hands.
By the 1960s, Flato had closed the doors to his New York and Los Angeles store and focused on a store and focused on a store in Mexico City in the then fashionable Zona Rosa district. The emerald ring (lot 30) and necklace (lot 28) are superb examples of Flato's Mexico City work. These pieces show Flato's interest in traditional Mexican gold work and his love of large, important gemstones. As a frequent visitor to the Museo Nacional de Antropología and traveler to much of Central America, Flato studied the gold work of the Mayans and incorporated many techniques and motifs that he discovered. The large cocktail ring (lot 29) showcases an indigenous stone to Mexico and a favorite gem of Flato's, the milky and soft crystal opal.